First Week, Review of Pimsleur Greek and First Impressions

I have officially started learning Greek since March (to make it a nice six month mission). Technically speaking, this is not exactly true because I have used a couple of days in February to begin learning some but I deliberately missed my first days in March so that evens it out. Anyway, I have now started learning it and I’ll tell you about the progress I have made and my general impressions on the Greek language in this post.

First of all, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on the Pimsleur Greek course. Pimsleur is an absolute beginner course of Greek consisting of 30 audio lessons of 30 minutes each. I will be doing it since I have the course already (generally, Pimsleur costs a lot of money if you buy it new so that is probably not the best idea) and since there is a clear lack of resources for starters (that’s a thing that this website has an ultimate goal of fixing). Disregarding the costs, I have mixed opinions about Pimsleur. On the negative side:

  1. Some lessons are lacking in the amount of phrases because one focuses on learning a small amount of words or expressions (say 10 or less) per lesson and repeating them over and over. It doesn’t seem like it has a very efficient use of time and personally the repetition can bore the hell out of me at times.
  2. It doesn’t go deep into the structure of the language and gives few grammatical explanations except those on the surface level.
  3. I am also a bit worried about the content of the phrases themselves since they look a bit touristy to me instead of being more of the universal type of phrases.

I believe it could really do a better job in all of these areas. To look at the positives, there are at least two ways in which the Pimsleur courses seem to be working pretty well:

  1. First, drilled or not, I tend to remember the phrases taught in the lessons very well. The words do indeed sink into the memory.
  2. Second, it is extremely good in pronunciation. They have native pronunciation and break up words into parts so that you can see exactly how they are pronounced. It takes a lot of repetition, true, but the pronunciation part is pretty good.

As of today, I have done the first 10 of the 30 lessons which amounts to about 5 hours of listening. It doesn’t feel like I have learned very much yet but at least I have some idea of what the Greek words sound like. I still only hear them and haven’t seen them spelled so I will refrain from writing the Greek words at this time. However, I have been learning to say things such as: “mister”, “miss”, “missis”, “I would like”, “I want”, “to eat”, “to drink”, “wine”, “bear”, “hotel”, “not”, “know”, “street”, “boulevard”, “where is”, “here”, “there”, “what time is it”, “one”, “four”, “eight”, “nine”, “sorry”, “hello”, “how are you”, “at my place”, “at your place”, “at the restaurant”, “speak English”, “speak Greek” and the likes. It does not teach very much grammar except it has introduced that there are genders in Greek (apparently there is masculine, neuter with the article το (to) and feminine with the article ι (i)), some usage of words like “in”, present tense endings for “I” and “you” and perhaps also the words for “am”, “is”, “are”. I will carry on with the course and I will be able to tell you more soon. Since I have the opportunity, I can do it for the pronunciation alone.

Then the second thing is the Greek alphabet. I figured that since most resources of learning Greek are written in Greek (even this three lesson course on the labs), I would have to learn to read the alphabet fast. It turned out that learning the letters is easy but not enough. I have gathered some information over the alphabet and how to read Greek and I am learning this simultaneously. I will not speak much now because I will soon make another post about the Greek alphabet and explain you what’s the deal with it.

What about my first impressions of Greek? Well, no surprise, I really like it! There are three main reasons why I like Greek so far (transliteration might not be completely accurate… I’m writing from ear):

  1. Cool sounding words. I know is ksero. Then you understand is katalavenete, mono is only I is ego, water is nero and so on. It has a lot of words that I found really cool and I guess the Greeks have an easy time picking themselves a nickname by just using some word of their language.
  2. International Greek words. For example, a few that I have learned are that I buy is agorazo (in agoraphobia – fear of crowded spaces, agora – marketplace) or thing is pragma (think pragmatic), then word is lexi (as in lexicon) There are a lot lot more and I find that fascinating. I will probably eventually write a lot more about this as I come to learn them.
  3. The alphabet. Seriously, characters like π (pi), δ (delta),ψ (psi) are awesome.

I am not sure if I like the sound of the language, though. It is really hard to describe my feelings about it. I often like the individual worlds but the language itself sometimes sounds a little bit messy to me. I don’t know why but it sometimes reminds me of Spanish (maybe because of the intonation) spoken in a strange way. I remember having similar feelings about Portuguese (it reminded me of Arabic and I almost got scared that it would be as foreign) until I started learning it and grew to love the sound of the language.

Finally, this is just me getting started with learning Greek. It’s still all Greek to me and that’s why I am not giving you too many details. It’s only my first week and I’m not rushing the gun too much yet. Wait for more details in my future posts. I will also tell you my plans for the second week in the next post.

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11 comments

  1. I have always disliked Pimsleur products. It feels too much like memorization to me, rather than learning.

  2. Randy,
    I love Pimsleur products.
    I don’t care wether I’m learning or memorising. As long as the result is I do speak the language and have a solid basis to build upon.

    “Pimsleur” is very clever: it is intelligent memorisation. What I learn with Pimsleur I always remember and I can use.
    Disclaimer:
    I have’nt got any conflict of interest in favour of Pimsleur

  3. To the Blog owner
    (I could’nt find your name in less than 30 seconds so I’l call you BO, withallduerespect.)

    So, dear BO,
    First, let me tell you ther is even a second level of Pimsleur Greek: 15 more hours.

    Pimsleur is not as good as the publisher states.

    But it is VERY good at what it does.

    I agree that memorisation is great and what you learn with Pimsleur you tend to not forget.

    It’s a great basis to start learning a language from.

    And you can survive in the country after 30 to 9O lessons.

    Even 10 lessons will change the way people communicate with you, once you make the effort to start in their language before resorting to a shared other language.

    I only start getting bored around end of level 2. I think Pimsleir/simon and Shucster warn about this.

    I am always amazed at how I can say things Pimsleur asks me to say, using pieces heard before. I consider each of these steps a small victory, and I’m very happy with my lesson – a – day.

    And it’s true that a BIG PROBLEM with Pimsleur is you say what you can say so well that the local person you talk to asumes you speak much better than you do and starts talking as to a native.

    I use Assimil or Linguaphone after Pimsleur, and this gives great results for me. I can speak the language with natives and have decent conversations and professional interaction.

    Now Assimil and Pimsleur and Michel Thomas (another good course) are often disliked by :

    – classic learners who want to first master grammar. The hair shirt way of learning languages, as Micheloud coined it (www.newadvent.org/cathen/07113b.htm).

    – superior brains who do not need as much repetition. I wish I were one.

    – people afraid by unconventional methods.

    – maybe some others for other reasons ?

  4. Haddrock: what is BO? According to my copy of Thesaurus, it’s one of the following:
    • informal body odor.
    • best offer.
    • box office.
    • back order.
    • (also B/O or b/o) (in bookkeeping) brought over.

    As for my name, I’m trying to base this website on language courses as oppose to my personality, contrary to what most sites are about.

    And I guess there’s a big difference between Pimsleur and Michel Thomas. But that’s a another topic.

  5. Dear Linas,

    BO was for Blog owner, no offense nor bad thought intended. I hope you did not feel offended.

    I was not blaming I was trying to explain I could not find your name or pseudonym and trying to not be rude saying “dear blog owner”.

    I agree there is a huge difference between Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. The method is different.

    But my impression is that the result is grossly similar.

    Well , MT has a problem : only one target language voice (and a male one) with a questionable accent. Intonations are correct but he does not sound like a native.
    Fortunately for French learners, we have remasterised versions for Spanish , English, Italian and german are on their way: natives (actors may be) have replaced Michel Thomas so the pronunciation is optimal.

    The other difference in the result that I see is that after a Pimsleur course you know little vocabulary but you know the essential one. Still far from enough. After MT , you have a somewhat better ability to bild new sentences. You have a sufficient grasp of grammar. But you are not opereational when traveling. Too many useful sentences or words are not addressed.

    Both share the audio format that allows people with little time to intelligently and usefully take advantage of their scarce free time (when running, driving…)

    Both are only introductions to a language. They show you you can actualy learn a language more easily than at school .

    Just my opinion. I know many have very different ones and strong ones too.

  6. I didn’t want it to seem like I had taken offense. There was no reason to, you seem to have informative and well reasoned comments.

    As for differences between Pimsleur and Michel Thomas, that deserves a paper or at least a post in itself but basically I believe that Michel Thomas teaches the essential grammar while Pimsleur focuses on vocabulary. After Michel Thomas, you would be able to pick up a dictionary and construct your sentences with it because you would know how to do grammar (although surely in a somewhat limited way but that’s normal). I think that a true language course should have that. With Pimsleur, you wouldn’t really know how to do this because you have learned the most common verbs and their conjugations but not how to actually conjugate verbs in general. At least that’s the general impression I have been getting. It should also be taken into account that Michel Thomas Foundation + Advanced is about 15 hours which is only one third of the 45 hours that all three levels of Pimsleur take. The non-native pronunciation thing is not a thing that is intrinsic in the Michel Thomas method and I can be easily fixed just like you said.

    And you’re right, there are a lot of opinions about those. Often both of these courses seem to be like a “love or hate” type of thing to people.

  7. I agree about MT and Pimsleur.
    I went through the Arabic “MT” (not done by MT himself but more or less with hos principle). Well , although this was Egyptian dialect, this considerably reinforced my 2 Pismeur Syrian Arabic levels, I understood things I had not inferred.
    This may be more true for “difficult” languages. Pimsleur Spanish and Italian or Portuguese were easy and I upraded to Assimil, I am not csure MT would have added much. But MT first may be another good option instead of Pimsleur First, I won’t have any opportunity to try it, I guess.
    I’m not certain, but getting as good a pronunciation as possible early my be paramount. MT (english speaker ones) are not good at that.

  8. Actually, the feminine article is η, though it’s pronounced like ι in Modern Greek.

  9. hahhaha..<> i am greek.. what you said is half true.. we like combining words .. or we like using words that have a stupid meaning and funny sound.. for example : κουφάλα=koufala=cavity when someone s sneaky we say είσαι μεγάλη κουφάλα ρε = you are a big cavity (re) but i call my friends like that all the time XD

  10. I totally agree that it sounds like Spanish. It’s funny that you say that.

  11. Lol, strange, isn’t it? The thing is, it doesn’t sound much like Spanish to me anymore once I learned some. I guess if spoken real fast it still would, though.

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